Monday, April 7, 2008

Psoas, We have a Problem

Psoas, we have a problem and I think I am figuring it out. I have been doing pretty well the past week: running and working on joint mobility exercises each day. Saturday I kept my run going for an extra half-hour as it felt good. I did 90 minutes of running and rather than take the next day off I did another hour run. Before the run I broke open the Z_Health Neural Warm up 2 DVD that I received last week. The Neural Warm up programs are shorter 10 minute programs that are based on the movements of elite athletes. However they are not based on the skills that you would expect, but rather are based on efficiency of movement, fluidity of body control, and biomechanical alignment. There are two programs on the DVD. First I did the tutorial which demonstrates the movements and then I did the full movement program. Most of the exercises are modifications or the same as many of the I-Phase joint mobility drills. They will take more practice to get them completely right, but I do like the movements in the R-Phase drills. I particularly like how the hips are rotated during lunges. I really feel these loosen up my hips and put them through gentle but powerful rotations. I fell the tissue loosening as my body does movements that I probably never really do because of stiffness or just overlooking simple movement patterns. I have never seen any stretch that directly hits the joints in such a way as these and other drills in the R-Phase program. It really is a great program.

At the end of the program there are a couple of visual training drills similar to the ones in the R-Phase Neural Warm up DVD. Finally there were a few Muscular Activation Drills. These again were new takes on standard lunges or twisting motion drills. However I had an interesting reaction to one drill. It was the Full Body Integration drill called the Front Opener. It was a gentle lunge with one leg in the toe-pull drill position. The toe-pull drill in both the R and I phase programs is one of the more unique drills that I have seen. Anyhow on this drill one arm is held out straight in a certain way and then lifted over the head as you arch your body back. I noticed right away that this put a pull on my left Psoas muscle. Even though I was gentle with the stretch the pull was real obvious. I have a hard time stretching this muscle which causes a lot of conflict in my body. I thought it felt great and remarked so to my wife.

I went out for my run. My hips are moving in new ways each day and today I felt the right hip moving more forward so the felt more in line with the left. It was a good run. I felt great afterwards. I did the Intu-Flow routine before going to bed and thought to myself that I had just completed 5 days of feeling good. Outside of running where my form is changing, walking around , teaching, and just doing life felt normal (without the pains and tightness I usually have). I remember going to bed telling myself that I am not stretching, or rolling muscles, or trying to find new ways to feel better like I normally do. I hit the bed and fell right to sleep feeling good.

Then at about 3:30 am my body woke me up. Oh no, things were tight and out of place. My back felt like it needed a chiropractor in a couple of places. My left lower back was tight, my left knee felt tight, other pains were creeping in and I could not sleep. It took 2 hours a bit of light stretching and some Z-Health drills (including that one that stretched my psoas) to get back to sleep. When I woke up everything was still out of balance. It was going to be a bad day. When I got home from teaching I immediately did the Z-Health I-Phase drills (loosening up some) then tried to decide whether to run or not. After the Z-Health everything below my hips felt fine it was just my back that was still tight so I decided to run. The run went OK and I reflected on what had happened to my back.

This is what I think. I have noticed that I get that same reaction whenever I do a psoas stretch. More than twice the past two months I remembered that when I had tried stretching it hard (kneeling hip flexor stretch) the next day everything felt out of whack. I think that after it stretched it must gone into some reflex or tightening mode. Then it gets real tight and pulls the hip up and pulls the pelvis in tight (or at least that is how it feels). Then it pulls on the back where it inserts and that is why my low back gets tight and feels like it has been pushed in. Finally the rest of the back and my leg reacts and I can't sleep or feel comfortable.

I am going to let it calm down for a few days and them do some real light and gentle psoas stretching to see if it can loosen without getting a reaction from it later.

When I run and particularly when I race I say that I do "momentum racing". By that I mean that while other runners say tha I go out too fast in a race, I feel that I build up momentum and try to keep my body going at the same speed. I think this is because when I run there doesn't seem to be much connection between my upper and lower body and my left and right halves. I get my feet rolling but there is no connection from my legs to lower back through the hips. I feel like one of the wooden artist models that has been pushed into incorrect positions. So I just try to move along as fast as I can.

When I run my pelvis sort of rests on the femur at weird angles and there is no push off in my strides. Every once in a while I get it right and running feels magical but usually my hips just roll around on the legs and the lower back and just wobbling around. Sounds like it needs core work? That has never helped! The past two days while running, my right hip has a new rotation to it and a new balancing point (it feels more forward and in line). The right hip is still tight and trying to find its mark. At about 5 miles into my run today, it started rolling forward when I tried relaxing the psoas muscle. When I did this a loosening happened and then I started getting a good push off on both legs. The connection was starting to happen. I would lose it, and work on getting it back. I think this is a good sign that good things are happening. I just have to be patient, keep working, and hopefully watch it all come together soon.


Mike T Nelson said...

Thanks for the pointer to the article! Much appreciated.

I dropped you an email, but if there is a Z Health trainer near you I would seek them out and work with them for a few months and see how it goes. R Phase trainers in my experience can help about 50-70% of people that come in the door. An I Phase trainer can add another 10-15% on that and after Z Health level 4 you hit about 90-95%. They will be able to give you custom drills for your body, which you can't get from a DVD.

Remember that pain is bad and will have bad effects on the body. This includes any pain from soft tissue work. You may "feel" better temporarily, but I have rarely seen beneficial long term effects.

The basic assessment for R Phase is actually a gait assessment, so that is perfect for runners.

Glad you got to talk to Shannon. He is a very experienced tri athlete and Z guy.

Rock on
Mike N

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Mike,
I have your e-mail with the two names. I will check that out later. Much appreciation!